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Noel Williams wins 2019 Scottish Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture

Noel Williams, inspirational high school teacher, author of respected mountain guides, a founding member of the Lochaber Geopark, a retired member of Lochaber Mountain Rescue and accomplished hill runner, has won the prestigious Scottish Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture in 2019 – sponsored by Liberty British Aluminium.


Nominated by the public and his peers as a mountain hero who celebrates achievement, accomplishment and the spirit of adventure, Noel Williams, from Torlundy, near Fort William, joins the Fort William Mountain Festival Hall of Fame as the 2019 recipient of The Scottish Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture in its 12th year. He joins previous esteemed winners that include Cameron McNeish, Dr Adam Watson, Jimmy Marshall, Myrtle Simpson and Ian Sykes (see all 11 former recipients below).


As a well-known and respected member of the Lochaber community, having moved to the area for the climbing in 1974, Noel Williams said: “I feel very lucky to live in such a wonderful part of the country and I’m amazed to be given an award for doing activities I enjoy so much. I’m passionate about helping people appreciate some of the astonishing events that have shaped the local landscape. I hope that, despite the difficult economic climate, Lochaber Geopark will continue to spread this message.”

Rod Pashley, Chairman of The Highland Mountain Culture Association which runs the Fort William Mountain Festival, said: “This Award recognises a lifetime of inspiring others and sharing knowledge and passion for this spectacular area we live in. Noel is quiet and unassuming, hiding his great contribution to mountain culture. We are delighted to be able to recognise Noel’s hard work, dedication and passion by presenting him with this well-deserved Award.”

The Award is sponsored by leading Highland employer, Liberty British Aluminium, whose smelter is located at the foot of Ben Nevis just outside Fort William.


Kerry McDonald, General Manager of the Liberty British Aluminium Smelter at Fort William, said: “As an employer whose home is at the foot of Scotland’s tallest mountain and right at the heart of the Highlands, we are very proud to be associated with an award which promotes the rich and distinctive culture we enjoy here. Noel has done a huge amount over the years to highlight our unique environment and way of life and we applaud him for his work that richly deserves this special honour.”


The Scottish Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture will be presented to Noel Williams at a special ceremony on 23 February 2019 during the Fort William Mountain Festival 2019, which runs in and around Fort William and Lochaber, The Outdoor Capital of the UK, from 20 to 24 February 2019.  The 5th Scottish Youth Ambassador for Mountain Culture will be announced shortly and will also receive their award on 23 February.


Background to Noel Williams

Noel Williams has written and edited guidebooks that have inspired thousands of mountain walkers and climbers. His great knowledge of the mountains, shown in his books, guides and magazine articles, has been garnered through painstaking research and thousands of hours exploring the hills – From the author of ‘Scrambles in Lochaber’ (1985) to editor of Highland Scrambles South (SMC 2017). His interest in geology has also reached print, including Ben Nevis and Glen Nevis – co-author (NCC 1989) and Exploring the Landscape of Ben Nevis & Glen Nevis (Nevis Partnership 2016). He’s also contributed photos to a number of different guides.



Noel was a member of Lochaber Mountain Rescue team for many years and for a while was deputy leader. He was involved in some big lowers on the North Face of Ben Nevis, including the first night-time lower on the Orion Face. He retired from the team in 2011.


He has also been a member of the Scottish Mountaineering Club (SMC) since 1982, where he took on roles of Vice President from 1997 to 1999 and President from 2014 to 2016. He was also the editor of the SMC Journal from 2008 to 2014.
Lochaber Geopark and Nevis Partnership

As one of the founding members of Lochaber Geopark (2003/4) Noel Williams was and continues to be indispensable in the role of Chairman/Director of the charity.  He has also been a valued Director of the Nevis Partnership for many years. The charity guides policies and actions to safeguard, manage and where appropriate enhance the environmental qualities and opportunities for visitor enjoyment and appreciation of the Nevis area



Noel taught for 10 years at Lochaber High School where he was involved in running the school mountaineering club. Several of his pupils went on to become members of Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team. He later taught at Kinlochleven High School until his retirement in 2005.


Although he claims to be not much of a runner, Noel Williams has completed 21 Ben Nevis Races, as well as Tranter’s Round and six marathons. He has also completed quite a few new routes on the sea cliffs of Skye.


To find out more about the Fort William Mountain Festival programme 2019


Facebook –

The Scottish Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture –




Media Contacts:

Paddy Cuthbert | Littlehouse Media | E: [email protected]

M: +44 (0)7913 951717

Heather Negus, Fort William Mountain Festival | e: [email protected] | m: 07900 224068


For downloadable images of Noel Williams go to credit Dave MacLeod.


If you are keen to attend the Fort William Mountain Festival for a commissioned travel feature or adventure/activity feature, please contact Paddy Cuthbert to discuss a funded press trip to The Outdoor Capital of the UK.


Notes to Editors:


The Fort William Mountain Festival 2019 is presented in association with The Heritage Lottery Fund, Nevis Landscape Partnership, The Outdoor Capital, and the Highland Council and runs in and around Fort William in Lochaber, The Outdoor Capital of the UK, from Wednesday 20 to Sunday 24 February 2019.  The Festival attracts approaching 1500 people over the 5 days and takes place each February in and around the town of Fort William.


The Fort William Mountain Festival 2019 is sponsored by Rare Breed Production, Ellis Brigham, Gael Force (previously Corpach Boat Builders), Strathmore Hotels, Abacus Mountain Guides, Liberty, Nevis Range, the John Muir Trust, Thistle Access Ltd, the Outdoor Capital of the UK, Print Smith and Lamont Design.


The Scottish Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture


This prestigious annual award recognises and celebrates the achievements and accomplishments of one inspiring individual and their outstanding contributions to Scotland’s mountains, encompassing sport, theatre, art, photography, film and literature.


The award was set up in 2008 by the Highland Mountain Culture Association Ltd, organisers of the Fort William Mountain Festival.  The 2019 Award is sponsored by Liberty British Aluminium. The Youth Award is sponsored jointly by Gael Force Group and the Nevis Landscape Partnership / Heritage Lottery Fund.


Previous Recipients of The Scottish Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture are:


2018 – Cameron McNeish

2017 – Dr Hamish Brown MBE

2016 – Mick Tighe

2015 – Robin Campbell

2014 – Andy Nisbet

2013 – Myrtle Simpson

2012 – Dr Adam Watson

2011 – Ian Sykes

2010 – Jimmy Marshall

2009 – Richard Else

2008 – Dr Hamish MacInnes


Previous Recipients of The Scottish Youth Ambassador Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture are:


2018 – Shauna Coxsy

2017 – Robert Mackenzie

2016 – Natalie Berry

2015 – Zeki Basan


Festival organisers – The Highland Mountain Culture Association Limited – is a not-for-profit organisation, whose aim is to promote the understanding and appreciation of the world’s mountain places and people, by creating opportunities for people of all ages to share their mountain experiences, ideas and visions. To showcase these ideals, it stages annually a programme of events within the Lochaber area, called The Fort William Mountain Festival.


The Outdoor Capital of the UK is Lochaber Chamber of Commerce’s tourism brand, promoting adventure for all!  The Chamber publicises, sponsors and promotes Fort William and Lochaber as the best place in the UK for everyone to experience the outdoors; with a view to developing local jobs and wealth and encouraging sustainable economic growth.


The Outdoor Capital of the UK is Lochaber Chamber of Commerce’s tourism brand, promoting adventure for all!  The Chamber publicises, sponsors and promotes Fort William and Lochaber as the best place in the UK for everyone to experience the outdoors; with a view to developing local jobs and wealth and encouraging sustainable economic growth. This is done through a range of collaborative marketing initiatives and activities.  The organisation currently has a wide range of member businesses ranging from accommodation, food and drink and activity providers to non-tourism focused businesses who support the aims of the Lochaber Chamber of Commerce and acknowledge that tourism is crucial to the local economy. Many of these businesses are SMEs and by pulling resources and working as a team the Lochaber Chamber of Commerce achieves the positive results that individually the members couldn’t otherwise reach. The Chamber also produces the Outdoor Capital of the UK website, the go-to site for local events, outdoor activities and visitor accommodation in the area. /


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